For some reason, today I keep thinking of the X-Files episode in which Mulder says, matter-of-factly, “It looks like I’m gonna have to tell Skinner that his suspect is a giant bloodsucking worm after all.” One of the all-time great moments of television.
Today I’m looking at the Right Blogosphere and thinking, “They really are that stupid, after all.”
The background story, which you’ve probably heard by now, comes out of today’s New York Times. William J. Broad writes that Iraqi documents the U.S. government had posted on the web to keep the wingnuts busy included —
… detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
I repeat, accounts of Iraq’s nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Skip over to National Review Online, where Jim Geraghty writes,
I’m sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?
What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been “no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat”, for the past three years solid. Now we’re being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.
Let’s go back and clarify: IRAQ HAD NUCLEAR WEAPONS PLANS SO ADVANCED AND DETAILED THAT ANY COUNTRY COULD HAVE USED THEM.
I think the Times editors are counting on this being spun as a “Boy, did Bush screw up” meme; the problem is, to do it, they have to knock down the “there was no threat in Iraq” meme, once and for all. Because obviously, Saddam could have sold this information to anybody, any other state, or any well-funded terrorist group that had publicly pledged to kill millions of Americans and had expressed interest in nuclear arms. You know, like, oh… al-Qaeda.
The New York Times just tore the heart out of the antiwar argument, and they are apparently completely oblivous to it.
There are times when I almost wish I were a rightie. If you are a rightie, you can be don’t know shit from shinola stupid, and get paid for it. Must be nice. (See also “Cry, the Beloved Stupid Country” at A Tiny Revolution.)
That Iraq knew how to make nuclear bombs isn’t exactly a surprise. Through the magic of the Internets and the Google, we can find detailed information on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program before the 1991 Gulf war. We can learn that Iraq had a lot of uranium, and that in 1989 Iraq began construction on the mass production of centrifuges and a pilot-scale cascade hall at Al Furat. We can learn that Iraq “planned to divert highly enriched uranium, that was subjected to Agency safeguards, at Tuwaitha under a ‘crash programme’ to use the material in the production of a nuclear weapon,” says the IAEA. And on the same page we learn that
- Iraq’s primary focus was a basic implosion fission design, fuelled by HEU
- Using open-source literature and theoretical studies, ran various computer codes through Iraq’s mainframe computer to adapt the codes and develop the physical constants for a nuclear weapon development programme
- Was aware of more advanced weapon design concepts
- Invested significant efforts to understand the various options for neutron initiators
This is not news. This is stuff the IAEA had up on the web, in English, before the 2003 invasion. I know this because I found it way back then.
However, if you don’t have stuff to make a bomb with — you know, like uranium and hundreds of centrifuges — the plans are not all that effective. You could wad them up and toss crumpled paper balls at people, but that’s about it. And on the same page (scroll down to the chart at the bottom) we can learn that Iraq’s nuclear program stuff was destroyed, either by the 1991 Gulf war or by the IAEA.
Thus, information about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program before 1991 is not relevant to a decision to invade Iraq in 2003, unless you have new information that they’d rebuilt their centrifuges and cascade hall and such, and the IAEA was very certain they had not done this. Remember, inspectors were re-admitted into Iraq more than four months before the invasion, and they had found what was left of Iraq’s nuclear bomb-making facilities exactly as it had been left in 1998. You can find the IAEA’s press releases and reports on Iraq’s nuclear facilities from September 2002 to July 2003 here.
Once again, I am dumbfounded — which is what happens when you have found stuff that’s dumb — at how little the righties understand the history of Iraq’s WMDs and by their utter inability to comprehend linear time. (See also, from the Maha archives, “Jeez, Righties Are So Gullible.”)
Today, some of them seem to think that Saddam could have just snapped his fingers and had an advanced nuclear weapons program cranked up in no time. No, dears. We’re talking about a nation with only some centrifuge fragments buried in some guy’s flower garden. It would have taken them years to get back to where they were in 1991, especially after the inspectors were readmitted.
Broad of the Times says it was the IAEA that noticed the Iraqi plans on the web and asked that it be taken off.
Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.
Early this morning, a spokesman for Gregory L. Schulte, the American ambassador, denied that anyone from the agency had approached Mr. Schulte about the Web site.
You’ll remember that last March, John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, posted a bunch of random documents captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. These were hyped as possibly being the mother lode of proof that Saddam Hussein either had WMDs or was in cahoots with al Qaeda. Righties seized upon these and eagerly began to “interpret” them, often to hilarious results. So far little in them has been news, except to righties.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well, clearly, somebody feels it’s in America’s interest. This has been a Republican-pushed release. Would there be some potential benefit for the Republicans?
MICHAEL SCHEUER: Oh, I think clearly there is, and we’ve already seen their mouthpiece, The Weekly Standard, has already run a couple of articles saying that this proves Saddam did X or did Y, without any [LAUGHING] real knowledge of how the new documents fit into the context of everything else we know. It’s just plain amateurishness — or they know what’s in these documents and they figure it can help them by releasing it.
Today Thomas Friedman — not the sharpest tack in the box, himself — complained that Bushies think voters are stupid.
They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.
Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, “They must think I’m stupid.” Because they surely do.
Ah, Mr. Friedman — look at Bush’s base. They really are that stupid, after all.
Commentary from Smart People:
Christy Hardin Smith, “NUKE-u-lar MOH-rons.”
Scott Lemieux , “Charles Johnson, Genius”
Michael Bérubé, “ABF Friday: Special Election Edition!”
Steve Gilliard, ” Taking the pinheads bowling”
Digby, “Secretary of Hack“